January 12, 2022

    Enabling Intelligent Lighting with More Capable In-Home Networks

    Bluetooth® technology has significantly impacted device connectivity, beginning with wireless speakers and headsets, evolving into wearables, and now introducing more complex smart home implementations. One particularly promising use case, intelligent lighting systems, lends itself well to Bluetooth® Low Energy communications and its extension: Bluetooth mesh. It offers enhanced connectivity throughout an entire home. It can be used to interconnect lights, switches, and other sentrollers within a resilient mesh network while providing connectivity to the user through the smartphone's well-known and integrated Bluetooth technology. Among the broad range of different low-energy networking standards used in the smart home sector, Qorvo supports Bluetooth mesh, as well as other wireless technologies, including Zigbee, Thread, and Matter. A development kit (DK) for the Qorvo QPG6100 communications controller helps accelerate the design and development of lighting control systems based on Bluetooth mesh, as described in this post.

    Bluetooth Mesh Basics

    Bluetooth mesh, a protocol that uses low-power microwaves, between 2.4 – 2.485 GHz, is managed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) and has unique advantages that make it well suited for smart building applications. Each node in a mesh network can relay messages to other nodes, supporting longer distance communications despite the low-energy usage. Messages can be directed around obstacles, and the technology avoids single-point-of-failure instances.

    The seamless connectivity to the network through the Bluetooth interface integrated into every smartphone allows for a seamless and user-friendly way for users to interact with the networked devices. Commissioning new devices in the network, setting up groups and scenes, triggering a firmware update, toggling lights, and much more can all be done directly from your smartphone without the need to purchase or set up a hub or border router.

    Multi-protocol Solution Capabilities with Qorvo ConcurrentConnect™ Technology

    Bluetooth mesh networks make it possible to propagate signals over longer distances and use nodes to extend the range of the data communications as needed to avoid packet loss and maintain consistent signal strength. In combination with the Qorvo QPG6100 communications controller, developers can build an environment in which multiple protocols are supported in addition to Bluetooth, including Zigbee and Matter. Integrated support for Qorvo ConcurrentConnect™ technology enables continuous listening to different devices functioning under different protocols.

    Developers can take advantage of SoC simplicity and the ConcurrentConnect flexibility to design solutions with reduced part counts, more compact form factors and lower product costs. With ConcurrentConnect support, interoperability with the smart home network of the user is achieved using silicon-based technology. Combined with example applications included in the development kit, Bluetooth mesh product development becomes more straightforward.

    Qorvo QPG6100 Bluetooth Mesh Qualified Solution and Development Kit (DK)

    A comprehensive and easy-to-use development kit is available to streamline product development. The Qorvo QPG6100 Bluetooth mesh DK offers these features to simplify development of connected lighting applications:

    • ConcurrentConnect technology – Offering users a simple way to build a light bulb compatible with any major low-power connectivity standard available today.
    • Streamlined provisioning tool – Simplifies the Bluetooth mesh networking configuration through a user interface that supports tooling for commercial deployments, developers, and automated testing.
    • Pre-integration of mandatory Bluetooth mesh features – Accelerates time-to-market by providing a validated stack with essential features included.
    • Best-in-class packet delivery rates – Ensures optimal bandwidth usage, reducing network retransmissions and optimizing network robustness without the need to adjust network parameters to accommodate diverse application models or topologies.
    • Bluetooth mesh model library – Supports lighting-oriented development projects through a Bluetooth mesh model library.
    • Firmware updates – Includes a pre-integrated over-the-air firmware update mechanism that distributes the new firmware image point-to-point or across the mesh network. This turnkey solution helps deliver faster time-to-market.
    • Remote provisioning – Supports remote provisioning of devices through a gateway, creating a multi-hop means of establishing communications with a new node.
    • Smartphone applications – Provides use case-oriented smartphone applications for Android and iOS, focusing on how a typical user would interact with the Bluetooth mesh network, letting developers verify the application and determine its user-friendliness during application development.
    • Turnkey applications Features turnkey applications that pre-integrate all typical application features, such as a bootloader, over-the-air update, application state machine, and user interface, offering a ready-to-produce solution that only requires minimal tweaking by the product designer.

    The Battle for the Smart Home

    Multiple standards are vying for a place in the smart home. Qorvo's product portfolio supports major standards, including Bluetooth Low Energy, Zigbee, Thread, and Matter. Confronted with these many different standards, product developers can have difficulty making design decisions. Qorvo's unique ConcurrentConnect technology simplifies smart home product design by enabling multi-standard concurrency with a single device. Qorvo engineered ConcurrentConnect technology enables nodes to listen concurrently for communications that apply to them, regardless of the protocol they are using. Other multi-protocol market solutions are limited to communicating with only a single supported protocol at a time, causing latency and dropped communications. ConcurrentConnect manages data traffic across protocols with the technology capabilities integrated into silicon, including the Qorvo QPG6100 communication controller.

    For system architects and developers, these capabilities can be easily accessed through the QPG6100 software development kit (DK), which includes an application focus on lighting and security. The DK unlocks the features of ConcurrentConnect, abstracting the details of the individual protocols within a framework that presents a single-radio point of view within the application. Developers can concentrate on the higher-level aspects of the software and user interface without investing time on data communication issues.

    This DK delivers best-in-class Bluetooth mesh performance, exceptional interoperability with new and evolving protocols, and offers an effective starting point for developing Qorvo IoT end node products, with an initial focus on lighting solutions.

    Figure 1. Basic Layers in the Solution Stack.

    Lighting the Way

    As the adoption of smart home networks rises, overseeing and managing a diverse range of devices—and device protocols—will become increasingly important. The Qorvo QPG6100 SOC, ConcurrentConnect technology, and the Bluetooth mesh DK bring developers the right ingredients to create some genuinely innovative solutions in the lighting control sector.

    Resources and Recommendations

    An excellent primer for IoT planning and design is Qorvo's Internet of Things for Dummies, which discusses the underlying technologies involved and their impact on our everyday lives.

    Qorvo ConcurrentConnect technology—explained in this video—provides a multi-protocol platform enabling numerous connected home use cases and streamlining IoT development projects.

    A white paper, Solving the Challenges of Many Devices with Multiple Standards in the Connected Home, discusses a new technique for managing multi-protocol networking.

    For the latest information on the state of the Bluetooth sector, read the 2021 Bluetooth Market Update, produced by the Bluetooth SIG.

    Visit Bluetooth.com/lighting for resources and additional information about this technology, including blog articles, white papers, and more.

    The Bluetooth® word mark and logos are registered trademarks owned by Bluetooth SIG, Inc. and any use of such marks by Qorvo US, Inc. is under license. Other trademarks and trade names are those of their respective owners.


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    About the Authors

    Bram Van den Bosch
    Director of System Architecture

    Bram is one of our resident low-power wireless experts. His wealth of knowledge in this area is derived from his role at Qorvo and his involvement with the Zigbee Alliance. He has also made various contributions to Zigbee RF4CE and Zigbee Green Power.

    Tim Allemeersch
    Senior Manager, Application Software, Wireless Connectivity

    Tim and his applications team guide and assist customers from project start to mass production with implementing Qorvo's silicon into their products. He is responsible for our worldwide application software engineering efforts, including customer engineering and integration support, as well as the development of reference software development kits.